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Theresa May persuades cabinet on Brexit divorce, but Parliament challenge ahead

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British Prime Minister Theresa May, calling it a “decisive step,” said Wednesday evening that her cabinet had signed off on a draft divorce deal negotiated with the European Union, after telling the House of Commons earlier the agreement “takes us significantly closer to delivering what the British people voted for.”

May emerged from 10 Downing Street after what she characterized as a “long, detailed and impassioned” five-hour meeting with her cabinet. She delivered her statement over the heckling from a smattering of anti-Brexit protesters.

May, who said she would deliver a statement Thursday in Parliament, said that turning back from the negotiated draft now would raise the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in five months.

“The choice was this deal — which enables us to take back control and to build a brighter future for our country — or to going back to square one, with more division, more uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum,” said May.

Watch May’s full statement:

U.K. prime minister tells reporters she has won the support of her cabinet for the agreement. She now faces the greater challenge of getting it approved by Parliament. 2:25

Pro-Brexit politicians from her own Conservative Party had already attacked May’s plan, saying it will bind Britain to EU rules and regulations long after it leaves the bloc in March.

The most vocal among those are Jacob Rees-Mogg and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is believed to have designs on leading the party.

The withdrawal terms are just part of what will be a long process.

May has to publish in Parliament a copy of the withdrawal agreement and an outline agreement of Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Ministers must then arrange a debate and vote on the agreement, though the House of Lords will not have the power to block the deal.

May will have to carve out enough support for the deal among the myriad interests represented in the House of Commons, which includes MPs from Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“I know that there will be difficult days ahead,” she said. “This is a decision that will come under intense scrutiny, and it’s entirely as it should be, and entirely understandable.”

Northern Irish Backstop

At the heart of the difficulty in negotiations had been the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls between the British province and EU-member Ireland which could threaten the 1998 peace accord which ended 30 years of violence.

The deal commits the two sides to a solution to guarantee the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland remains free of customs posts or other obstacles. It keeps the U.K. in a customs arrangement with the EU, and will last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. Both sides say they hope to have a new deal in place by the end of 2020, so the backstop is never needed.

“The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop,” May admitted after the cabinet meeting.

Among the deal’s other key points: 

  • Transition period: Britain will leave the EU on March 29 but remain inside the bloc’s single market and bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship. The transition period can be extended by joint agreement before July 1, 2020 if both parties decide more time is needed.
  • Citizens’ Rights: EU citizens living in Britain, and Britons elsewhere in the bloc, will continue to have the rights to live and work that they do now.
  • A political declaration: Stating that Britain and the EU will seek a “free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation,” and “ambitious, comprehensive and balanced” arrangements for the services sector. It aims to include: visa-free travel for short-term visits, smooth rail road, air and sea transport and “comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the deal bad for Scotland’s economy. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via reuters)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday that the deal was bad for the Scottish economy, adding that parliamentary approval would be difficult to win.

“It is obvious that [May] can barely unite her cabinet on this deal, and it is also increasingly clear that she will struggle to get a majority for it in Parliament,” she said in an emailed statement.

“If this deal is indeed rejected by Parliament, then the U.K. government must return to the negotiating table to secure a better one.”

May told lawmakers in weekly question period earlier in the day that the deal means Britain will “take back control” of its laws and borders “while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom.”

“The cabinet will decide on the next steps in the national interest. I’m confident that this takes us significantly closer to delivering what the British people voted for in the referendum,” May told Parliament.

‘A decisive step’

The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.

The hours-long meeting led to heightened speculation in the British media, including the possibility of a ministerial resignation or even a leadership challenge to May, which would require at least 48 of 315 Conservative MPs signing off.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier called the draft deal “a decisive step toward concluding this negotiation” and signalled that EU leaders can convene a summit soon to endorse it.

Barnier told reporters Wednesday, “I consider that we have achieved ‘decisive progress”‘ — the announcement that EU leaders had been awaiting from him to call a summit.

Barnier didn’t directly address the summit or its possible date, although Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that a leaders’ meeting is penciled in for Nov. 25.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside Parliament. May has been adamant there won’t another referendum on leaving the European Union. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

May repeated her pledge earlier in the day that there would not be another public vote. The Leave vote comprised 51.9 per cent of voters in 2016.

“We will not rerun the referendum, we will not renege on the decision of the British people,” she told Parliament.

“We will deliver Brexit and the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on the 29th of March 2019,” she added.

May said that in the post-Brexit landscape, Britain will be able to strike independent trade deals with countries around the world, but she will need to convince at least some members of other parties.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose seats have helped keep May’s government in power, said it would not back any deal that treated the British province differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“If she decides to go against all of that, then there will be consequences,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said.

‘Bungled negotiations’

Ian Blackburn, MP from the Scottish National Party, called May “hamstrung, divided, desperate and looking defeated.”

Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn told the British Parliament the deal follows two years of “bungled negotiations” and that May is putting a false choice before MPs, between “her botched deal or no deal.”

“It breaches the prime minister’s own red lines,” he said. “It doesn’t deliver a strong economic deal that supports jobs and industry, and we know they haven’t prepared seriously for ‘no deal’.”

The divorce also needs to be approved by the EU and European Parliaments, while Ireland’s Leo Varadkar has promised his own Parliament a vote on the draft deal.

Varadkar told Irish lawmakers on Wednesday that “we are close” to “a legally binding and legally operable withdrawal agreement.” But he says nothing is guaranteed, and a lot of things can still go wrong.

Conservative lawmakers opposed to May since at least when she unveiled her so-called Chequers plan will have to weigh the implications of defeating the deal. The consequences could include May’s departure as leader, and a national election they could very well lose to Labour. 

A no-deal Brexit would also pitch the world’s fifth largest economy into the unknown during a time Western countries are already grappling with the unconventional U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.

With files from CBC and The Associated Press

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Canadian Homeowners: Meet the Costs of Window Replacement Projects

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Various factors could lead you to consider replacing your windows. However, there are multiple factors to think of that would affect the costs of this project. On average, a window replacement project could cost anywhere from $500 to upwards of $2000. The price is significantly affected by factors such as the design, materials used, and how energy efficient you would like your windows to be.

There are various types of windows to choose from. Understandably, the costs to replace your current window would depend on the kind of window you would like to replace it with.

It is essential to keep in mind that although there are different designs when it comes to windows, you need to take into account the functionality as well. Several types of windows may look suitable for your home but are actually not right for what you need.

Unless you are more concerned with the aesthetic of a window, you should understand what the different types of windows are best used for. To properly understand what makes each window type different, you should be familiar with the term sashes.

Simply put, window sashes are the part that holds the window in place. Depending on the type of window you get, the sash may allow for manoeuvrability or may simply be there to keep your window on the wall.

Moving on, there are several types of windows to choose from. This may all look confusing at first, and you may be tempted to select the best looking one, but you have to put into consideration the functionality of the window.

Unless you’re okay with having a poorly ventilated home or one that is continuously cold because of your window, thorough research and consideration should go into the choosing process.

The thing to remember is that you have to take the process one step at a time. You might feel overwhelmed and indeed, being overwhelmed is not something that will benefit you at all.

So what should you do now? The first stride you need to take when considering a window replacement project is to choose the replacement window. There are various types to choose from. However, it would do you good to consider the six most in-demand window styles first.

Double-hung windows are perhaps the most common choice. The benefits extend to it being easily operable and quick to clean. It operates using two sashes. Both sashes are manoeuvrable and provide you with a top or bottom opening at your choosing.

Single-hung windows are slightly different. Although they operate on generally the same principle, the most significant difference is that one of the sashes is stationary and cannot be moved. One of the sashes usually located at the top is fixed and cannot be moved while the bottom sash can be manoeuvred either upward or downward to allow for air. The benefit of a single-hung window is its ability to decrease the chances of air infiltrating your home. This ultimately means that single-hung windows are incredibly energy efficient.

Casement windows are the optimal choice if you’re looking for ventilation. It operates using one sash and is manoeuvrable through a crank that allows you to swing it open in one direction—usually outward. In addition to its superior ventilation properties, you are also able to enjoy a full and unobstructed view of your surroundings.

Slider windows are perfect if you’re looking for something that requires little to no effort to manoeuvre. Due to its aesthetic and design properties, slider windows are great additions if you would like to have plenty of natural light in the room. It operates using two sashes that allow you to manoeuvre it horizontally, mostly sliding the window from side to side.

Bay windows are an ideal design choice if you would like something that not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also allows for excellent ventilation and natural light. Bay windows are certainly aesthetically pleasing. However, they are also perfect for larger rooms where you would like to bring in a certain amount of outdoor life.

Awnings are generally recommended for areas with damp weather. The easiest way to describe it would be to imagine a casement window that has a top opening instead of side openings. This type of window is perfect if you are looking to add a modern and chic feel to your home.

Now that you have selected the type of window you would like to put into your home, it is time to consider what material to use. There are various options ranging from vinyl to aluminum. Understandably, the costs will vary depending on the type of material you choose.

The best thing to do to ensure that you are making the right choice is to contact a professional in window replacement. The right professional will have all the answers to your replacement windows FAQ.

Contacting an expert not only ensures you make the right choices for your home, but it also guarantees that your window will be installed appropriately and as quickly as possible.

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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